The state House of Representatives passed a series of measures, many involving critical budget matters, as the Legislature heads into its final stretch of work this year.
Today is the deadline for the House and Senate to finish work on all bills that originated in the opposite chamber. Final versions will be considered in joint conference committee session before the Legislature adjourns May 5, 2011.
Bills that passed the House so far today have included a strengthened tax on internet purchases of out-of-state goods and services; creation of a pilot medical marijuana dispensary on Maui; an overhaul of mortgage foreclosure procedures; and re-opening of a Big Island prison facility.
Objections to many of the measures were expressed by House Republicans, but were easily outvoted by the majority Democrats in the House.
In the Senate, there were heated debates over balancing the state budget, taxing retirees’ pensions and imposing a new Internet tax.
The Democratic majority passed a streamline tax on Internet purchases.
In addition, the state budget will grow to $22 billion, more than last year’s budget, despite a weakening economy and a $1.3 billion budget shortfall from now until 2013.
Senate Democrats, including Josh Green and Suzie Chun Oakland, said Hawaii’s poor need health and human services. Jill Tokuda stressed the importance of investing in public education. Senate Democrat Malama Soloman suggests rebuilding Hawaii’s infrastructure will boost the economy.
Senate members need to assert leadership and cut spending, argued Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, the only Republican in the 25-member body. Slom, who opposes any tax or fee increases, or funds hidden in special funds, said the majority of Hawaii families, including single moms, and small business owners, are cutting back. On Friday, Slom presented a biennium budget that cuts $4 billion in government expenditures over two years.
The House’s 8 Republicans also presented an alternative budget that cut government and took some special funds, including the Rainy Day and Hurricane Fund, to balance the budget and cover the shortfall.
Democrats, who make up all but 9 seats in the 76-member legislature, have so far ignored the Republicans and continue legislation that will increase taxes, spending and debt.